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Introduction to Spring Festival by Sally Yu, RSM China

This year, Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) starts on February 12th .  Sally Yu from RSM China shares the history of Spring Festival and the traditions behind it.

Spring Festival is the new year of the Chinese traditional calendar, which is the most significant festival in China and East Asia.  The festival usually begins on the eve of the lunar New Year's Day and ends on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar. The 15th of the first month is called the Lantern Festival, which is the official end of the Spring Festival. 

春节(中国新年)是从今年的2月12号开始。来自RSM China的Sally Yu将向大家分享中国新年的历史由来和新年风俗传统。

春节是中国传统年历中的新年,是中国乃至东亚地区最重要的节日。春节通常在农历新年的前夕开始,并在农历的第一个月的第十五天结束。第一个月的15日称为元宵节,这是春节的正式结束。

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Legends

The origin of the Spring Festival appears in a legend. In ancient China, there was once a monster called “Nian”. It had long tentacles and was incredibly fierce. Nian lived in the deep sea but would climb ashore on New Year's Eve, hunting livestock and killing humans. Every New Year's Eve, people would flee into the mountains to avoid the harm Nian brought. Until, on one New Year's Eve, an old beggar came to a village and told people how to drive away Nian. He revealed that Nian was afraid of red, fire and explosions. From then on people posted red couplets (two poetic lines written vertically in black ink on red paper and pasted on either side of the door) and set off firecrackers on every New Year’s Eve. This custom was spread widely, and it has become the most traditional festival among Chinese people.

神话传说

关于春节的来历有一种传说,中国古时候有一种叫“年”的怪兽,头长触角,凶猛异常。“年”长年深居海底,每到除夕才爬上岸,吞食牲畜伤害人命。每年除夕夜,村寨的人们逃往深山,以躲避“年”兽的伤害。后来有一年除夕,从村外来了个乞讨的老人,告知了人们驱赶“年”兽的办法。原来,“年”最怕红色、火光和炸响。从此每年除夕,家家贴红对联、燃放爆竹;户户烛火通明、守更待岁。渐渐地,这风俗越传越广,成了中国民间最隆重的传统节日。

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Another interesting story about Spring Festival is “Say goodbye to Kitchen God”. The Kitchen God was responsible for the food in every household and knew about people’s life. People regarded the Kitchen God as a protector sent by the Jade Emperor. The Kitchen God oversaw the moral character of each household in every kitchen. He would go to heaven to make a report to the Jade Emperor a week before the Lunar New Year, evaluating every household’s performance during the whole year. The Jade Emperor would bless the family according to the report. To get more blessings, the housewife would put honey on the portrait of Kitchen God’s lip, and then burn the portrait, which meant sending the Kitchen God to heaven. The worship of the Kitchen God reflects people's yearning for a peaceful and beautiful life and it also warns people to obey the code of conduct, which is an important component of Chinese culture.

另一个关于春节的故事是“送灶王爷”,灶王爷专门负责人间百姓每家每户灶火,百姓生活如何,灶王都是第一时间知道。在百姓心里灶王爷就是玉皇大帝派来保护每家每户的神仙。灶王爷在每个家庭的厨房里,听着一家人的是非善恶。在农历新年的前一周,这位神仙要到天庭述职,讲述这个家庭一年的成就,而天神会根据它的汇报,给这个家庭赐福。为了让灶神能够为家庭美言,主妇会在灶神画像的嘴上抹上蜂蜜,然后烧掉画像——送灶神上天。对灶神的崇拜,反映了人们对和平美好生活的向往,也是警戒人们要遵守世间罚恶赏善的道德规律,这也是中华文化的重要内容。zao_wang_ye_.png

Traditions

There are various festive ceremonies and activities during Spring Festival, such as dragon-lion dancing shows, firework displays, pasting spring couplets, worshipping the ancestors, flying Kongming lanterns, watching the Spring Festival Gala, welcoming the God of Wealth, and sending away hungry ghosts. Due to the vast territory of China, there are different customs and ways of celebrating activities in different areas, however, gathering and having a New Year’s Eve dinner is a common tradition throughout the country. The New Year's Eve dinner is regarded as the best meal of the year. The most common food served are dumplings which are shaped like gold ingots and represent the hope to attract wealth in the coming year. When making dumplings, people often put a coin in one random dumpling. Those who eat that dumpling will gain more wealth and fortune in the coming year, which may be the origin of fortune cookies.

春节传统

春节期间有丰富多彩的节日仪式和相关活动,如舞龙舞狮、烟花表演、贴春联、祭祖、放孔明灯、看春节联欢晚会、迎财神送衰神等等。由于中国地域辽阔,不同地区有不同的习俗或庆祝活动,但是团聚和吃年夜饭在全国各地是一个统一的庆祝仪式。通常来说,年夜饭是一年中最好的一餐。最具有代表性的春节食物是饺子,因为饺子形如元宝,人们在春节吃饺子希望来年招财进宝。在包饺子时,人们常常放一枚硬币到饺子里。吃到这个饺子的人将会在新的一年里获得更多的财富和运气,这可能就是幸运饼干的来历了。

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Family reunion is the core of the Spring Festival. With the development of the economy, many people work and live in other cities but they will all return to their hometown to celebrate Spring Festival. This custom gave birth to a Guinness World Record. On the first day of the Lunar New Year there will be more than 2 billion people moving back and forth over 40 days (15 days before the festival and 25 days after the festival), accounting for 1/3 of the world's population. This movement is known as the largest annual human migration in the world. It is love for the family that supports this moving. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19, the range of the Spring Festival transport may be greatly reduced, and so for now, not returning to one’s hometown is also because of love and responsibility for the family.

像上文提到的一样,过年对于中国人来说,最重要的是家人团聚。随着经济的发展,很多人到外地工作生活,但每到过年,他们都要回到自己的家乡。这一习俗也诞生了一项吉尼斯世界纪录,春节前15天,节后25天,共40天的时间里,将有20多亿人次的人口流动(往和返),占世界人口的1/3。中国春运入选出中国世界纪录协会世界最大的周期性运输高峰。支撑这场迁徙的,是对家庭的爱。由于疫情的影响,今年的春运可能会大为缩水。但不回家,也同样是出于对家庭的热爱和责任。

 

A yearning for happiness and reunion

Spring Festival is the crystallization of traditional Chinese culture and a symbol of China. It is a festival of joy, harmony, and family reunion. It is not only a carnival but also an eternal spiritual pillar for Chinese people to express the yearning for happiness and reunion. It is a summary of a year of hard work, reflecting the diligence and wisdom of the Chinese people and a good wish for the coming year.    

对幸福和团圆的向往

春节是中国传统文化的结晶,也是代表中国的重要符号。辞旧迎新是春节的核心主题。春节是一个代表欢乐、和谐和家庭团聚的节日。它又不仅仅是一个节日,它是中国人民表达对幸福和团圆的向往的永恒精神支柱,是对一年辛苦工作的总结,凝聚了中国人民的勤劳智慧,也体现了对即将到来的一年的美好憧憬。

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From a global perspective, the meaning of the Spring Festival has surpassed the range of China and has now a great global influence. The Spring Festival is known by the whole world with its profound cultural background and long history. The Chinese world also holds various celebrations during the Spring Festival globally. Although the nationalities and languages are different, the same cultural connotations are undoubtedly the easiest to arouse an emotional resonance. People all over the world are in a community with a shared future. In 2020, a pandemic suddenly swept the world. We have felt that humans’ fragility and strength are beyond our imagination. We are remaining strong in these challenging times. We have experienced and suffered many difficulties in 2020, but the new year is coming as scheduled. We are ready to fight the pandemic together and welcome back a better world in 2021.

从世界范围来看,春节的意义已经超过中国范畴,具有世界影响。春节正在带着其深厚的文化底蕴和历史积淀走向全世界,同时全球华人世界也会在春节期间举行各种各样的庆祝活动。虽然民族不同、语言不同,但这相通的文化内涵,无疑最容易引起情感的共鸣。全世界的人们也是命运共同体,2020年一场突如其来的新冠疫情席卷了全世界。这一年,我们的脆弱和坚强都超乎自己的想象,人们依旧在时代浪潮的汹涌中保持坚韧。2020年的我们经历了太多困难,但新的一年如期而至,愿2021年我们能共同抗击疫情,迎回美好的世界!

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